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CREDENTIALS OF AUTHORS
Dr. James F. Meyer has a background in reactor safety and licensing that spans more than 20 years. He is an authority in the field of severe accident behavio: (core melt accidents) of nuclear plants. After 5 years at Argonne National Laboratory where he performed reactor physics experiments, he joined the Nuclear Regulatory Commission where he spent more than 10 years dealing with severe accident analysis and other safety issues. Among the projects that he worked on were the Clinch River Breeder Reactor, the Fast Flux Test Reactor, the Zion and Indiana Point pressurized water reactors, and the Limerick power station. He also performed safety and "licensability" studies for candidate designs that were part of President Carter's non-proliferation program. He has policy level experience with severe accident and advanced reactor issues as the technical assistant to a Commissioner of the NRC from 1983 to 1987. Since leaving the NRC, Dr. Meyer has served as a consultant on severe accident safety issues.
Dr. Roger J. Mattson has more than 20 years of experience in nuclear reactor safety, most of which were spent at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 1967 to 1984. For seven of those years at NRC he directed most of the technical review of all licensed nuclear plants in the United States. He was a principal contributor to the NRC's Action Plan issued in 1980 after the accident at Three Mile Island, the NRC'S Severe Accident Policy Statement issued in 1985, and the Safety Principles issued in 1988 by the International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Among other assignments since leaving the NRC, Dr. Mattson has participated in design reviews of the production reactors at Hanford and Savannah River, served on the UNCINI Corporate Nuclear Review Board for N Reactor, served on the Nuclear Review Board for Philadelphia Electric Company, and assisted the NRC in the interpretation of the accident sequence at the Chernobyl reactor in the Soviet Union.
(From The Energy Daily, Washington, DC, Monday, July 25, 1988)
HTGR BACKED FOR WEAPONS REACTOR
From a safety point of view, the Department of Energy should pick the High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor when it selects the technology for its new weapons production reactor, according to a report by two veteran nuclear scientists scheduled for release this week. DOE is expected to make a multibillion dollar decision shortly on what kind of reactor to buy to produce tritium, a key ingredient in nuclear bombs. Four different reactor technologies are competing for the contract.
“When the alternative technologies are viewed from the perspective of providing the highest probability of demonstrating adequate safety in a timely and broadly acceptable fashion, the High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor has significant advantages over the Light Water Reactor, the Liquid Metal Reactor and the Heavy Water Reactor," write Roger Mattson and James Meyer in the new study. “It has a better technical basis for responding to determined intervention, it has a proven track record in the NRC licensing process and it has lower severe accident risk. The HWR presents the highest risk because of the lack of regulatory background and the uncertainties surrounding severe accidents."
Mattson and Meyer are former NRC officials with extensive experience in nuclear reactor safety. Their study was commissioned by the National Defense Council Foundation, a 10-year-old Washington group that describes its purpose as being in defense of free enterprise, country and Constitution.”
If DOE decides to go with an HWR for its new tritium plant, the report says, large safety expenditures will be required for a technology unique to the new production reactor, thus diverting needed funds from other important safety research programs. It could detract from reactor safety research applicable to the commercial sector.
“DOE, through its new production reactor program, could make a significant contribution to the future energy security of the United States by choosing a reactor type that has potential to meet future energy needs in a safe and environmentally acceptable way," the scientists write. “In this way, DOE also will serve to limit the number of nuclear reactor designs in the United States."
USE OF CIVILIAN POWER REACTOR FOR MATERIAL PRODUCTION
Senator HATFIELD, Mr. Chairman.
Senator HATFIELD. Mr. Chairman, I am being solicited to the floor to help co-manage the appropriation bill on Labor-HHS in the absence of Senator Weicker. So I will not be able to remain, but I would like to have two questions submitted for the record.
Most particularly, my concern about fuzzing over the clear line of delineation between civilian and military uses of atomic or nuclear materials that we have maintained over the years and the implications of relating to proliferation of nuclear power in the world. I am deeply concerned about the talk of taking a $2 billion plant that has been chartered or licensed for a civilian plant in my part of the country, in the Northwest, and moving that into weapons production. I think it would be a legitimate question to be considered if one of the developing countries of the world did this.
I am deeply troubled by the whole implication of these points and they are stated in my questions which I would like to have submitted for the record.
Senator JOHNSTON. Those questions will be included at the appropriate place in the record.
Senator HOLLINGS. Will the distinguished Senator yield?
I have the same feeling relative to developing a commercial reactor into a defense facility, and a similar feeling that the Senator has that we don't take a defense reactor and start building it for commercial use. Because, that is the main point of our distinguished colleague from Idaho.
Senator HATFIELD. I would have the same trouble as long as it is proliferating nuclear power.
Senator MCCLURE. That is not the main point of the Senator from Idaho. That is one part of the discussion.
The main part I am concerned about is security for this country and having an adequate NPR that is functional and it is assured functional capacity at all stages in the future. I don't care how that is accomplished. I don't have any preconceptions about how that is accomplished, but, Senator, you know the dangers that occur if, as a matter of fact, all four of the reactors at the Savannah River had had the same design as the C Reactor. They would all four be shut down today. This government today would have had no choice except to continue to operate the N Reactor at Hanford. We would have no tritium production facilities at all.
Senator JOHNSTON. Senator Domenici, do you have any comments?
Senator DOMENICI. I have none yet.
Senator JOHNSTON. Mr. Salgado, welcome; please proceed.
ENERGY, DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
I would like first to take the opportunity to introduce first, to my left, Mr. Del Bunch, who is the Principal Deputy for Nuclear Energy. Mr. Wade has already been introduced; to his far right is Mr. Ron Cochran, the Principal Deputy for Major Projects within the Defense Programs arena.
I would ask, Mr. Chairman, that my prepared statement be included in the record.
MISSION OF DOE As we are all aware, the mission of the Department of Energy is to produce special nuclear materials to meet defense requirements. The future requirements of this country cannot be met reliably with existing facilities. The Department's long-range plans for production of nuclear materials involves the replacement of our existing production reactor capacity in a manner to assure reliable production of tritium and plutonium in quantities that will satisfy future defense needs.
NEW PRODUCTION REACTOR CAPACITY
The need for new production reactor capacity is driven by the need for an assured supply of tritium for our nuclear weapons. You are all aware that the tritium has to be replaced in our nuclear stockpile because it decays at a rate of approximately 5 percent per year.
I would like to go back to the past, if I could, for a second. The past is not remote. In 1985, this country had five reactors in the defense facilities, operating and producing special nuclear materials. Five reactors-one at Hanford, four at Savannah River. Today, as we sit here, this country has the capacity or the capability to put one and one-half reactors on line. In those 312 years, this country has lost three and onehalf reactors in capacity.
What happened? Obviously, in May 1986, the Chernobyl incident occurred and numerous reviews and safety inspections were undertaken both at Savannah River and the Hanford facility. As alluded to earlier, the C Reactor, because of embrittlement and cracking in the vessel, could not be repaired and was brought down. The other remaining three reactors at Savannah River, after a review by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, as requested by the Secretary, had their power levels reduced to 50 percent.
A review of the N Reactor at the Hanford facility indicated that upgrades in safety needed to occur. Those were undertaken and as missions changed and the defense requirements for plutonium changed in the outyears, it was determined not to bring the N Reactor back on line.
The key issue of the National Academy of Sciences in its overall review of our class A reactors came to a very disturbing and a very troubling conclusion. They concluded that the production reactors all display symptoms of acute aging and the remaining useful lives are likely to be equal to or shorter than the time needed to build new production facilities. If the United States finds it necessary to have a reliable and safe production capability, then the planning and construction of a new production reactor capacity should be accelerated, and that is why we are here today.
REVIEW PROCESS The Secretary, upon that review and upon the existence of our reactors in their 50-percent mode of operation, brought together a longterm plan or a strategy for developing the technology selection or selections for new production reactor capacity. We brought together two modes. We brought together the Energy Research Advisory Board, under Mr. Schoettler, and we also brought together a Site Evaluation Task Force internally within the Department of Energy, both on parallel tracks.
ERAB was to do an analysis of the ongoing technologies that could be utilized for a new production reactor into the next century, and the Site Evaluation Task Force to do an ongoing analysis of a site that would be available to the Department for a new production reactor or reactors, if it was so determined by the Department of Energy and by Congress.
We specifically asked ERAB also to include an assessment of duality; that is, diversity of technology and the use of more than one site. I need not report the findings of the report, they have been alluded to here and that report is a public document.
For the record, I should indicate that the four technologies that we are looking at are: the heavy water reactor, the high-temperature gascooled reactor, the light water reactor, and the liquid metal reactor technology. That process has been completed and ERAB has completed its job. The Site Evaluation Task Force has completed its job. As outlined in letters to Congress and mandated by Congress, we have advised Congress of the process that was undertaken within the Department of Energy, both to analyze the ERAB recommendation and to analyze the Site Evaluation Task Force recommendation.
We have committed to Congress to have an open dialogue with other components within the executive branch that have a vested interest in the new production reactor and special nuclear materials capacity. We have had consultation with the Nuclear Weapons Council, with the Department of Defense, with the National Security Council, and with the Office of Science and Technology of the President. We have had consultations also with OMB and, obviously, we have had consultations, gentlemen, with Members on the Hill in various forms and various capacities.
The process is now coming to conclusion and this opportunity here today with this committee avails us of more input and more information upon which the Secretary can base his decision. Within the week, we expect that Mr. Wade will present before ESAAB within the Department of Energy not only the program recommendation, but the result of consultation from those external bodies as well as consultations with Members of Congress. The decision process will go forward to the Secretary for a decision.
We must look at what the future of this country and the future of the nuclear weapons needs look like in the year 2010. I think it is our obligation with the executive branch, working with the legislative branch, to ensure that this country has the capability to meet and the capacity to meet future demands in our national security defense role.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I welcome your questions.